Once again, the weather is the main talking point as farmers continue to wait for spring sowing here in the Borders and almost everywhere else in the UK.

Rain has fallen nearly every day this month and some fields continue to have large areas under water as they never get a chance to dry as drains run to capacity.

Winter-sown crops look remarkably well considering how much rain they have had, and oilseed rape is now nearly into full flower and growing well. There does not seem to be any sign of a let-up in this weather pattern as we enter the second half of April, and this is going to make harvest somewhat later than normal unless we get a dry and warm spell soon.

There have been some good drying days and a rise in temperature for short spells and then the rain comes back and puts everything back to square one. At least the daylight hours are expanding now and when eventually work on the land does get going it should be warmer as well.


Meanwhile the UK is not the only country suffering from weather issues as many in the EU are struggling to get crops sown. France are well behind their five-year average for completing their spring sowing and on April 1, 65% of their soft wheat area was rated as being 66% in good or excellent condition compared to 93% at the same time last year.

In Germany, there was excessive rainfall from November last year until mid-February, which resulted in flooding in many regions – many crops are having to be resown again. Many crops have been continually impacted by unfavourable wet conditions across Europe’s key production regions. In large areas of Western, Northern and parts of Eastern Europe, excess wet weather has impacted on sowing, emergence, and development of winter crops.

Russia has had dry weather over the past month and is expecting abnormally hot weather over the next week or so but estimates of a 93mt wheat crop for 2024 can be expected. The US has also had drier weather than normal but crops there are looking well with a 56% good-to-excellent report which compares to 27% last year at this time.

Their wheat area suffering from drought, however, has grown from 12% to 18% over the past two weeks and in Kansas and Oklahoma, where 35% of their wheat is grown, more dry weather is expected. The US is looking at a reduced winter wheat area of 34.135m acres but including spring wheat the total will be nearer 47.5m acres.

Due to the UK’s reduced planted area and ongoing wet weather, it is likely that the requirement for imported wheat into the UK will increase for this coming year and most of the wheat will be of milling standard.

Traditionally, imported milling wheat comes mainly from Germany and Canada, and importers will be watching to see how their wheat crops are faring as Canada is also suffering from drought in some areas as well. Germany’s wheat production for 2024 is forecast to be down 11% on last year but France, who are also struggling with weather issues – their worst for four years – also supply a small proportion of milling wheat to the UK.

If, because of the weather and resultant shortage of milling wheat, this will see a price premium for this commodity later in the year.

UK flour millers, including wheat milled for starch and bioethanol production, used 93,700t of imported wheat in February this year which is up 7% from January and 22% more than in February 2023.

As a result, imported wheat took a greater share of wheat milled during February at 19.3% and is the second-highest proportion of imported wheat used by UK flour millers since September 2021.

The higher proportion of imported wheat reflects the poorer quality of the 2023 harvest plus concerns about this coming 2024 harvest. Just over 90,000t of imported wheat were held in stock at the end of February, which is the highest imported wheat stock level since the end of December 2020.

The export pace of grain remains strong with wheat, barley and maize exports for March estimated at 6.0mt up from 4.9mt in February.

It is thought that the March estimate had not been reached due to an ongoing dispute between wheat exporters and Russian authorities which has seen loaded ships stranded in ports and unable to leave without their required phytosanitary certificates which has helped to firm up prices.

Wheat makes up the biggest tonnage of the March total at 4.9mt which is the largest amount since September 2023, and to date this season 39.1mt of wheat have been exported. The large amount of grain exported from the Black Sea region has put pressure on prices but forecasts for exports from Ukraine for grain and oilseeds for the 2024-25 marketing year will be around 70mt compared to 82.6mt shipped last year.

The Russian crop size will determine global grain prices going forward and if the forecast total is less than thought then prices could rise.

India’s wheat harvest has been estimated at 105mt and their domestic demand is put at 111mt – so there is a requirement for some imported wheat which was rumoured to be coming from Russia last year but never took place, which saw futures prices drop at that time.

Currently, the Liffe old crop feed wheat futures for May 2024 stand at £171.75/t which is very similar to two weeks ago at £171.95, and for new crop November 2024 stand at £193.85, slightly down on two weeks ago at £194.90/t. This means that there is still a price carry of over £20/t from old to new crop.

Looking forward to May 2025, there is a bigger movement from two weeks ago from £202.40 to currently stand at £205.50. This could be due to potential concerns for this year’s harvest production which is still very much in the balance with regards to total wheat production and very much depending on the outcome of the weather over the next few months.


Old and new crop feed barley prices have both rallied last week and have increased by £10-£15/t since the start of February, which has encouraged some on-farm selling. Feed barley has been worth around £150- £160 depending on location compared to feed wheat at £170 and delivered bread wheat at £259/t.

Due to the lower price of barley compared to other ingredients, animal feed barley usage is up 3.3% for the year to date. This has helped to support prices as the UK has been unable to export barley as it was not price competitive with other countries. Again, as with wheat, little or no spring barley has been planted in Scotland due to the ongoing wet weather.

Oilseed Rape

Following a price rise in March, there has been a correction as a large carryover is putting pressure on prices especially with an anticipated supply of rapeseed from Australia. Buyers are also waiting to see how crop prospects are in Europe, Australia and Canada, where the crop is still developing, and in Europe where the crop is not improving due to weather and disease.


Old crop bean prices have firmed as there is now very little tonnage left on farm. Prices have risen by around £5-£10/t, which has seen demand fall as a result. It is now getting nearly too late to sow any spring beans due to the wet conditions and Defra is now indicating that the area of peas and beans for harvest 2024 is going to decline by 14%, from 275,000 to 236,000 hectares.


Prices have remained stable in the UK for urea and due to the weather conditions, there have been lower purchases than would have been expected at this time of the year as the UK is approximately a month behind normal spring applications. Ammonium nitrate prices also remain static, but supply is limited with little imported AN available in the UK and home-produced only available for April-May delivery.

UK natural gas prices have eased downwards since the start of the new year, with a mild winter leaving European natural gas stocks at record high levels.

As expected, lower natural gas prices have helped fertiliser prices and it is likely that nitrogen fertiliser prices will ease if gas prices remain stable. However, we need to be aware that the issues with Russia and Ukraine could affect global natural gas prices, especially when we learn that Russian strikes had hit two underground storage facilities recently.